Many people believe the best way to start the day is with a bowl of cereal, whole wheat toast with margarine and a glass of OJ. But many foods considered “healthy” are exactly the opposite.
I agree with every item on a list of 11 so-called health foods noted by certified personal trainer and health enthusiast Kris Gunnars.
Of course, not all brands are created equal. As always, be sure to read labels, research companies and make decisions based on your individual health needs.
Fruit juice is a far cry from “health food.” Most commercially prepared orange juice is so highly processed it bears little nutritional resemblance to the fresh variety, as Alissa Hamilton, author Squeezed: What You Don‘t Know About Orange Juice, explains below:
First, it’s pasteurized, which decimates its vitality. It’s then kept in giant tanks to ensure a year-round supply. All the oxygen is removed for preservation, destroying the natural flavor compounds.
Some companies add artificial flavor packs, aka chemical perfumes. A common one is ethyl butyrate, as well as unacceptably high levels of arsenic. Fruit drinks are even worse, consisting mostly of high fructose corn syrup in a mélange of artificial ingredients. Then, there’s mold contamination from damaged fruit.
Fruit juice is worse than the whole fruit, especially stored in containers, where methanol dissociates from the pectin and can increase your risk of M.S.
Separated from its beneficial fiber, even freshly squeezed orange juice is very high in sugar, and therefore detrimental to your health. One eight-ounce glass contains about 8 teaspoons of sugar, compared to soda with 10 teaspoons.
Habitually downing this much sugar can increase your risk for gout, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease and numerous other health problems.
Consuming whole fruit in moderation is better, as the fiber and antioxidants modulate the sugar. If you want juice, try making your own vegetable juice at home.
Whole Wheat and Other Grains
Contrary to press calling whole grains nutritious, science says that’s not quite true. Grains contain gut-damaging anti-nutrients in the fibrous bran portion of the grain, which can cause inflammation, intestinal permeability and “leaky gut.”
Wheat and other glutinous grains are the worst. Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) has been identified as inflammatory, immunotoxic, cardiotoxic and neurotoxic, and can pass through your blood-brain barrier to interfere with neurotransmitter function.
Many people are unaware of two things: that grains contribute to insulin and leptin resistance—the primary underlying causes for chronic diseases, from diabetes to cancer, and that they’re gluten intolerant. Gluten intolerance may trigger neurological and psychiatric conditions such as depression, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. But products labeled “gluten free” or “low-carb” aren’t always good for you. Many contain sophisticated ingredient combinations specifically engineered to induce cravings.
Agave Syrup and Nectar
Agave nectar or syrup lines nutrition store shelves, but most are laboratory-generated, super-condensed fructose syrup so highly processed it bears NO resemblance to the plant it’s named for. It may contain from 55 percent fructose (the same as high fructose corn syrup) to as much as 90 percent.
When consumed in large quantities, fructose is the most damaging sugar you can eat, driving up uric acid and causing hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, kidney and liver disease. Better sweetener options are stevia (an herb), and raw organic honey in small amounts, which offers health benefits, provided it’s high quality.
Sports Drinks and Energy Bars
Loaded with toxins like high fructose corn syrup, sodium and artificial colors and flavors, sports drinks can actually make your health worse.
Tithe citric acid in sports drinks—up to 30 times more erosive to your teeth than water—harmfully softening your tooth enamel. Coconut water is a better alternative, sporting a long list of beneficial compounds, including natural electrolytes, enzymes, trace elements, amino acids and antioxidants, with anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering properties. But it has high sugar content, too, and ideally should be limited to times you need to replace minerals and fluid, like after a sauna or extensive cardio workout.
And most commercial energy bars are comprised of cheap soy protein, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic vitamins and waste products from industrial food production.
Vegetable Oils and Fake Butter
Americans’ massive over-consumption of vegetable oils is largely due to the demonization of saturated fats. While avoiding animal fats, people consume unhealthy quantities of highly refined corn, soy, canola and safflower oils, turning the average American’s omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratios upside down, often generating chronic inflammation.
Soybean oil is one of the worst, and processed foods are loaded with it. Whether partially hydrogenated, organic or made from newer soybean varieties modified so it won’t require hydrogenation, it can cause dysfunction in your body at a cellular level. More than 90 percent of American soybeans are genetically engineered, and as a result, contaminated with dangerous levels of the herbicide glyphosate.
Margarine is basically a heart attack in a tub, loaded with trans fats (from hydrogenation which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid). Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormone imbalance, infertility, low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children. Butter is the real health food—loaded with vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, CLA (if the cows have eaten grass, not grains), and other necessary nutrients.
Low-Fat and Fat-Free Foods
The low-fat craze has been one of the most damaging fad diets ever, leaving millions with chronic illnesses. The idea that all fat (especially animal-derived fat) is bad for you is a mistaken scientific interpretation.
Saturated fats from animals and vegetables are a healthier alternative, providing an array of important health benefits, without which your body cannot function! They’re needed for the proper function of your cell membranes, immune system, heart, brain and other organs. A recent “landmark” study provides compelling evidence that the type of fat you consume, not the amount, is what imparts the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Because removing fats from foods leaves them tasteless and unappealing, manufacturers load them with sugar and sodium and chemicals. Unaltered whole foods, including full-fat unpasteurized dairy, are much better for you—and better tasting!
Breakfast cereals are rife with toxic ingredients. Even many so-called “natural” varieties are contaminated with toxic pesticides, carcinogenic fumigants, solvents and genetically modified ingredients. Look for “USDA Certified 100% Organic” label.
In 2011, independent testing by the Cornucopia Institute had shown that several breakfast cereals marketed as “natural”—even some claiming to avoid genetically engineered ingredients contain high levels of genetically engineered ingredients. While typical American breakfast staples like cereal and muffins are popular, you’d be better off skipping breakfast altogether.
But wait—isn’t that the most important meal of your day? Many studies point to yes, while some new research indicates skipping breakfast may reduce hunger, stimulate your metabolism, level your blood sugar and stabilize insulin levels throughout the day. Properly done, intermittent fasting will actually help eliminate most food cravings so you can lose weight. Once again, it depends on your body’s needs as well as the common sense fact that, even if skipping breakfast is unhealthy, it’s better than a sugary morning real food substitute.
Choose Real Food!
When considering food, keep in mind that the best place to find high-quality foods is from a sustainable agricultural group in your area. If you need help getting started, please refer to my free nutrition plan.